French prospect Isaia Cordinier impresses in workout with Sixers


Isaia Cordinier has been ready for this moment for quite some time.

His father, Stéphane, an Olympic handball player for the French, had him prepared for this at a young age. All his dad asked was that Cordinier pour his heart and soul into his passion: the game of basketball.

"He was my first coach," Cordinier said of his father. "Since I started sports in general he wanted me to be the best. He saw that I really loved basketball."

And that's why Cordinier is working out for NBA teams — like he did for the Sixers Thursday at PCOM —  and being talked about as a fringe first-round pick in this year's draft.

Cordinier, 19, is a crazy athletic guard who has been lauded for his hustle and tenacious play. It's that reputation that has garnered him praise back in his home country and in the States with NBA front offices.

"High-energy kid, plays with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion," Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said of Cordinier.  "Can make shots.  High 'twitch' guy.  Nice player.  Very nice player."

Eversley also noted Cordinier's leaping ability and the ferocity with which he attacks the rim. 

The biggest leap Cordinier has made has been from last season to this one at Denain-Voltaire, a team in France's second division. While his physical abilities are unquestioned, there is a still a rawness to his game.

One of the biggest things he continues to work on is his shot. This season, he shot 40 percent (40 of 99) from three in 32 games according to Real GM. That's up from the 25 percent (10 of 40) he shot last season.

Playing professionally as a teenager has helped Cordinier a great deal. While some NBA prospects have played against elite competition at the NCAA level, Cordinier has played against professionals that are physically developed and play the game for their livelihood. 

"I play with grown men," Cordinier said in his thick French accent. "They are 30, 35. They are very experienced. Their bodies are finished. I can learn a lot. The IQ, the read of the defense."

"Certainly helps," Eversley said of Cordinier's pro experience. "In the league that he played in France, he played against men, as opposed to the American kids here who played in college.  It’s certainly a benefit to him, especially in making this transition to the NBA."

While all that may be true, Cordinier isn't exactly playing against LeBron James and Stephen Curry. In his workouts, he's definitely noticed a disparity.

"Maybe the quickness," Cordinier said of  the difference. "In Europe you have one or two players on a team who can play 1-on-1. Here you have to be focused on each player on the team because everybody is really quick and a good 1-on-1 player."

Cordinier got to show off a little bit of his quickness and ability in a 3-on-3 workout session that was open to the media. His athleticism was on full display as he finished a couple emphatic dunks. He also showed his ability to read defenders and excel in the pick and roll.

While his NBA workouts have gone well, Cordinier does have the option of going back to France for another year. His goal is to go in the first round, but several draft projections have him going early in the second. 

What could be appealing to a team — say like the Sixers — is Cordinier's option to go back overseas and continue to develop.

"I don't know yet," when asked if he would return to France, "but if I got an invitation to play in the NBA right away, I would take it.

"I'm only 19 so that's still young for a European player. I will see what's going on after the workouts, but my goal is to go in the first round."

The Sixers could have the means to make that happen. 

It's been speculated that with three first-round picks, they could use either pick No. 24 or 26 on a player they can "stash" overseas. Cordinier could be an ideal fit. They may not have the minutes for him in the NBA, but he could return to Denain-Voltaire and continue to play big minutes.

Eversley said they haven't broached the subject with Cordinier and his representatives, but would do so at "the appropriate time."

Cordinier is ready for all these scenarios. He's had a passion for the game of basketball since he was six years old. He remembers working out during summers with his father. He said his father wasn't afraid to be physical with him and ended every session with a game of 1-on-1.

There is a poise and a maturity to the 19-year-old Frenchman. He started learning English in middle school and handled the Philly media quite well. Then again, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Thanks to his dad, Cordinier has been ready for this for a long time.

"He pushed me every day," Cordinier said. "He prepared me for the professional world. He helped me to act like a professional since I was very young."

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